Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Laos Food of Luang Prabang

Exchange Rate
MYR1 = KIP1,750
KIP1,000 = MYR0.57 (MYR0.60 rounded up) = USD0.12

Laos is not famed for its cuisine. In Luang Prabang, the choices on the menu in the restaurants were quite limited. Only popular Laos dishes seemed to be offered on the menu, and not those that the common folks eat daily.

What the common folks eat can be seen at the morning market, and which you can see some hungry vendors at the night market eat. However, I was not adventurous enough to try this common food at the morning market. My excuse has always been that I did not want to get Delhi belly. In Luang Prabang, I have to add another excuse - I did not know what went into the cooking. Blood? Stomach juice? Animal internal organs?

Day 1 (10 November 2017)
Dinner at The Pizza Luang Prabang (N19.89287° E102.13852°)

I did not have breakfast nor lunch on my first day in Luang Prabang. The first food I tasted was at the Night Market food street (N19.88967° E102.13373°), and it was fried Chinese Jiaozi (vegetable dumplings).

The dumpling was the starter. My dinner was at The Pizza Luang Prabang along Sisavangvong Road, close to the end of this road and beginning of Sakkaline Road.

Day 2 (11 November 2017)
Breakfast at Road-side Stall (N19.89071° E102.13544°)

At the Morning Market, I was not able to find a place where I had the confident to sit down and eat. The road-side stall at the corner of Sisavangvong/ Sathoutan Road had rice porridge being boiled, giving me the confidence that it should be okay for my stomach.

Just to be sure, I stopped to ask one of the girls when the minced meat that went into the porridge was prepared. She tried hard to find the words to explain it to me and finally answered 6:00 a.m. in the morning. This should be okay for my belly and I placed my order.

A bowl of rice porridge was KIP7,000. I asked her to add an egg, which cost KIP3,000 and ate a bread-stick (You Tiao) which cost KIP1,000 per piece.

Lunch at Open Air Market (N19.88920° E102.13383°)

The Open Air Market was located at the junction of Sisavangvong Road/ Kitsalat Road. I had been walking the whole morning exploring the town and was on the way back to the hostel when I stopped by for lunch.

Lunch consisted of Fried Yellow Noodle with pork but which looked more like instant noodle to me. It cost me KIP20,000. The water melon drink cost me KIP10,000.

Dinner at Coconut Garden (N19.89261° E102.13783°)

After booking a tour at a travel agency office (there was no shop name, but from the receipt it said Treasure Travel), I continued hunting for dinner. I checked a number of restaurants and they did not offer Laos sausage. When I finally found one restaurant serving sausage, I found it expensive. What the heck. I could afford it. There was no need to skimp on food, as this was probably going to be the first and last time I would be eating Lao food.

Therefore, I just ordered whatever fancied me. I splurged on the Laos sausage, Mekong fish paste steamed in banana leaf and Beerlao. The total damage was KIP107,000.

That evening, I was wondering what I would be having for breakfast the next day, if I have to leave by 8:00 a.m. for my Pak Ou Caves trip. Breakfast at the hostel would be served between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. only and I would miss it.

In the end, I decided to buy two pieces of cake at the night market at KIP10,000 a piece.

Day 3 (12 November 2017)
Breakfast at Lao Coffee Shop (N19.88802° E102.13226°)

Though I had bought two pieces of cake for breakfast and lunch for the tour to Pak Ou Caves, I decided to go out and be back before 8:00 a.m. as I was running out of time to buy gifts for friends. I would be leaving for the airport at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, leaving today as the last day for me to do some gift shopping.

I would be going to Morning Market to buy the gifts as I did not see shops selling food gifts. The Night Market has limited choices. If I miss the Morning Market today, I wouldn't be able to get anything for friends. At the same time, I could check to see whether the road-side rice porridge stall had opened as the porridge was really good. 

In addition, I could also buy something additional for lunch for today's trip to Pak Ou Caves.

As I walked past Lao Coffee Shop at Chao Fa Ngum Road near the roundabout, I peeked in and saw rice porridge being boiled. I saw the accompanying meat dish but took the gamble that it should be okay. There were also beef noodle and pork noodle available.

I ordered rice porridge (KIP10,000) and Lao coffee with milk (KIP6,000). When the You Tiao was delivered to the shop and a plate of it put on my table, I ate one piece (KIP1,000).

The rice porridge was fantastic.

At the Morning Market, I bought three packets of coconut cake for friends at KIP5,000 each, three pieces of curry puff at KIP1,000 each (1 savoury vegetable, 2 sweet mung bean fillings) and four pieces of Banh Cong at KIP3,000 each.

Lunch at Namkhong Cafe (N19.89334° E102.13583°).

I was back in town by 1:00 p.m. after the Pak Ou Caves visit.

This corner cafe was located at Chunkham/ Ounheuan road junction. It was still opened for lunch and there were a few patrons there. I went in, looked at the menu and was satisfied with what were on offer. Laos sausage was on the menu. Since the Laos sausage at Coconut Garden was not very good, I hoped the sausage here would be better. It was not cheap but like yesterday, I decided to splurge on the food which I might not have another chance to try in a very long time. 

My order took about 25 minutes to prepare, too long considering that there were so few patrons.

Lunch consisted of sticky rice at KIP5,000, red curry at KIP30,000, Laos sausage at KIP40,000 and a bottle of Sprite at KIP8,000. 

Overall, the meals was just average.


This morning, I had the rice porridge, You Tiao and the curry puff. On the way back from Pak Ou Caves, I ate the four pieces of Banh Cong. I had a heavy late lunch and finished at 1:50 p.m. 

I still had the two pieces of cake. I ate them mid-afternoon and was hoping that I would be able to take dinner later. I was wrong. Dinner time came and I was still very full. I had to skip dinner.

Day 4 (13 November 2017)
Breakfast at Lao Coffee Shop

Today would be my last day in Luang Prabang. I would be leaving for the airport by 7:00 a.m. I did not have much time for breakfast, and the only place where I could try my luck was to go back to Lao Coffee Shop.

It opened at 6:00 a.m. but I was not sure that food would be ready to be served by that time. I was taking my chance when I walked out of the hostel to Lao Coffee Shop.

Fortunately, the rice porridge was ready to be served to customers, after a short wait. I went back to the hostel, satisfied that I had my last bowl of such good Luang Prabang rice porridge.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Luang Prabang Airport

Day 4 (13 November 2017)

Airasia departure time was scheduled at 9:25 .m. but had been retimed to 9:00 a.m. However, I had made arrangement with the hostel to call a taxi to pick me up at 7:00 a.m. I did not have much time for breakfast. Lao Coffee Shop (N19.88802° E102.13226°) near Phothisarath Road-Chao Fa Ngum Rd roundabout opened at 6:00 a.m. and I was hoping that food would be ready to be served in time for me to go back to the hostel before 7:00 a.m.

I left the hostel at about 6:00 a.m., reached Lao Coffee Shop at 6:08 a.m. and my breakfast of rice porridge was served at 6:19 a.m. The You Tiao (bread stick) vendor had not sent his supply to the coffee shop yet. Yes, I would be on time, sans the bread stick.

I wasn't expecting monks to be collecting alms at that time, because two mornings earlier, I saw them leaving the nearby temples at 5:30 a.m. to collect alms. If visitors would like to see alms giving without the hordes of tourists joining the devotees, then come to Chao Fa Ngum Road near where the roundabout was located. I know of at least two temples here, but which I did not bother visiting.

The 'taxi' arrived before 7:00 a.m. The driver went to talk to the receptionist (wife of the Dutchman), and I was surprised when she told him she did not speak Laos. I was curious about her nationality and she said she was Cambodian.

We reached the airport in 11 minutes, at 7:02 a.m. The airport was small. At that early hour, the currency exchange booth had not opened, and I could not do anything to exchange the balance of about KIP350,000 to USD or other currencies.

On the airside, there were two floors of departure gates. On the first floor were the departure gates for Airasia. There was also a smoking zone and a food court. The food stalls had not started business yet, until much later.

The arrival of the plane was delayed by over one hour due to bad weather, and we departed at only about 10:10 a.m.

In the plane, the two couples whom I heard speaking Foochow on my first day in Luang Prabang occupied the seats right on the row in front of me. What a co-incident!